Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Gluten Disorder Anatomy

To better understand celiac sprue, it helps to understand the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract.

The esophagus is a muscular tube that propels food down to the stomach. The stomach is the most dilated portion of the digestive tube, situated between the esophagus and the beginning of the small intestine (duodenum). It lies in the upper central portion of the abdomen (above the umbilicus) and to the left of the midline. The stomach produces gastric juice (acidic), which serves to breakdown proteins.

The intestine is a long, continuous, tube inside the body. It lets the body absorb nutrients from food and liquids. The intestine is about 22 feet long. It includes the large intestine (colon) and the small intestine.

The small intestine has three parts:

  • Duodenum:
    • Connects to the stomach
  • Jejunum:
    • Middle portion of the small intestine
  • Ileum:
    • Lower portion of the small intestine that connects to the cecum (first part of the large intestine)

The large intestine is also known as the colon. It is the last portion of the intestine.

The colon has several parts, including:
  • Cecum:
    • The portion of the colon that connects to the ileum (small intestine). The appendix is a finger-like pouch that comes off of the cecum.
  • Ascending colon:
    • The first section after the small intestine, located on the right side
  • Transverse colon:
    • Sits horizontally across the upper abdomen
  • Descending colon:
    • Located on the left side of the abdomen
  • Sigmoid:
    • A short, S-shaped section above the rectum
  • Rectum:
    • The lowest internal part of the colon

Gastrointestinal anatomy:
  • Esophagus and stomach
  • Intestines
  • Blood vessels of the intestines
  • Entire gastrointestinal tract

Last Updated: Dec 7, 2010 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Gluten Disorder References
  1. Green PH, Jabri B. Celiac Disease. Annu Rev Med. 2005 Sep 7. [1614641]
  2. Hill ID, Dirks MH, Liptak GS, Colletti RB, Fasano A, Guandalini S, Hoffenberg EJ, Horvath K, Murray JA, Pivor M, Seidman EG; North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. Guideline for the diagnosis and treatment of celiac disease in children: recommendations of the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2005 Jan;40(1):1-19. [15625418]
  3. Leffler D, Saha S, Farrell RJ. Celiac disease. Am J Manag Care. 2003 Dec;9(12):825-31. [14712759]
  4. Rossi T. Celiac disease. Adolesc Med Clin. 2004 Feb;15(1):91-103, ix. [15272258]
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